Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives.
This documentary effectively explores issues of environment and sustainability, social exclusion, ‘development,’ and the ability of art to bring about change in the lives of marginilised people and raise awareness of such issues.
The film was a strong reminder of why we use forms of self-expression to empower communities. It is so encouraging to see a world famous artist working so closely with an important group within society that often gets forgotten. Not only was the art resulting from this project phenomenal, the stories of the catadores are unforgettable. I would recommend taking the time to watch Wasteland, as there are so many things that we can learn from it, about wider global issues, individual stories, the power of art and what can be achieved through it. One can’t help but be inspired.
Written by volunteer, Stacey